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The changeover to the euro is taking place in stages. The transitional period began on 1 January 1999, and the euro has been an official currency unit in Finland - alongside the markka - since then. Euro notes and coins will go into circulation at the beginning of 2002 and the national currencies will be phased out by the end of June.

The biggest Finnish companies with international operations have been making careful preparations for the changeover. They consider a long transitional period essential in order to make the necessary refinements to invoicing and computer systems.

The adoption of the euro will make price differences within the single currency area transparent and reduce them. Competition will increase, to the buyer's benefit.

The changeover to the new currency unit is such a big change that the brakes slowing it are mainly on the mental level. It will be difficult to form an idea of the value of money - the price of goods - without converting euros into the currency with which one is more familiar. Although big companies are already doing their budgeting in euros, the sums are still being thought of in terms of the familiar currency used as a medium of payment in everyday cash transactions. Five million euros must be mentally transformed into 30 million markkas before one grasps what size of sum is involved. Even after that, a sufficiently long transitional period will have to be allowed for. So far, customers of most Finnish companies are being given the opportunity to choose for themselves which currency they want to do business in.

Although companies in the euro countries can now transact business in the new currency and are indeed doing so, the old currencies are expected to remain alongside them for quite a long time. One reason for this is that transaction systems are changing at different speeds in different countries. It will take longer for the new currency to be adopted in trade with countries outside the euro area.

The Finnish business world is taking a positive attitude to the situation and is making very active preparations to cope with it. In this matter as in so many others, the Finns want to be in the forefront.